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A Brief History of Mexican Food

Mar 30, 2012 | No Responses

Mexican food, nothing can compare.  For the most part every dish is a medley of the same type of ingredients, but each one has a slightly different twist.  My favourite food is Mexican, and my favourite drink is coffee… read on to find out why I mention coffee in all this.

Some Random Facts:

  • Salsa (Spanish word for sauce) originally had avocado (aguacate) and tomato.
  • The fruit Tomatillo means round and plump and dates back to 800 BC.
  • Quesadillas are a mesh of Mexico and Spanish – tortilla is Mexican and pork beef and cheese Spanish
  • Ceviche was actually an Inca discovery.   Now my only suggestion is to be cautious of ordering ceviche in a restaurant.  Seeing as all the seafood is raw the chances of getting a bad batch could set you ill for a day or so.
  • Enchilada means “chili” in Aztec culture

As different societies swept through Mexico the food was influenced equally by all.  The core of each dish is the same with slight variations from region to region, which was influenced from a variety of cultures.

The Mayans

This is who it all began with 9,000 years ago in Belize.  It wasn’t long for the Mayans to migrate north to the Yucatan Peninsula.  Meals were cooked on an open fire in ceramic pots, and agriculture thrived… maybe it was that Mayan calendar that helped plan the yearly crops.  Ingredients used back then are very similar to what is used today, batata (sweet potato), beans, corn, chilies, avocados, and tomatoes.  It was common for the Mayans to slap bean paste on a corn tortilla.  Some things never change.


In the 1300s the Aztec Empire prospered and found in dishes are such fine foods like chili peppers, honey, salt and chocolate.  Salsa was very popular and sold in markets throughout the region.  The Aztec language Nahuatl gave us the names that have been translated into English; avocado (ahuacatl), chocolate (xocolatl), and tomato (xitomati).  It is known that the Aztec leader indulged in a vanilla and chocolate beverage sweetened with honey, and topped with a spoonful of froth.


When Hernan Cortes invaded the land the Spanish brought over apples, almonds (almendra), apples, rice, olive oil, garlic (ajo), and wheat.   They also introduced lavish meats like sheep, cows, and pigs to Mexican cuisine.  So, you could say they changed the dish little, but rather added ingredients.

As a sweet treat you have to try cajeta.  I was only introduced to it months into my stay, but it is now a staple in my cupboard.  If you love nutella then I can assure you this will be a nice substitute to satisfy that sweet tooth.

Another little treat is a corn dish you can buy off the street for about $2.  I’m not exactly sure how it’s made, but I know mayo is a big ingredient.  The added calories is worth it, take my word for it.

Author: Janelle Brandon

As our dedicated travel writer, Janelle scours Cancun and the Riviera Maya for all the cool things to do around here. From working and living to getting around, and, of course, the best beaches (she loves her sun and sand). Janelle lets you know how it is. As our Chief Operations Officer she makes sure we are not skipping out on work to laze on the beach (although sometimes she joins us). She's a pleasure to have around and always making us laugh with her crazy stories.

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